Regrettably, lost in the controversy over mercury are two other issues the Committee explored. First, in the 1980s, Congress created the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VCIP) to shield medical professionals and vaccine manufacturers from liability if an individual suffered an injury from a vaccine. The compensation fund, which currently contains over $3 Billion, was created to protect the vaccine supply and to insure that all who were injured by a vaccine received compensation in a no-fault, compassionate and easy to use manner.
Congress intended for families to be compensated quickly and fairly; and when the evidence was close as to whether or not the medical condition in question was vaccine related or not the court should always err in favor of the injured. Our investigations found that over the years the system had broken; and what was supposed to be quick and fair became slow and contentious. There has been no Congressional oversight of VICP in the last decade, and the system has not improved; if anything it has gotten worse. It is time for Congress to revisit this issue and consider substantially reforming this program. For the public to trust vaccine policies, it is vitally important to have a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that is efficient, effective, and fair to those who may have suffered injury from vaccines.
The other issue we dealt with is how do we help the millions of individuals and families afflicted with this disease. Autism has no cure and it is not a life-threatening disease. That means that the autistic children of today will be the autistic adults and autistic seniors of tomorrow. Our nation is ill prepared to deal with the complex challenges posed by a generation of autistic individuals. There have been far too many stories in the media of police, firefighters, and teachers ill-prepared to cope with an autistic individual and tragedy has resulted. We need to change that. We need prominent and influential leaders to step forward and spark a national debate on autism.
That is why I introduced the “White House Conference on Autism Act of 2011” (H.R. 3489). It will require the President of the United States to convene, no later than December 31, 2012, a White House Conference on Autism charged with developing policy recommendations on ways to address the autism epidemic and its impact on Americans. I hope to see this bill signed into law before I retire from Congress at the end of this year. Although I am retiring from Congress, I am not retiring from the fight against autism, because I firmly believe as a nation we have a collective responsibility to do everything we can to not only stop the further spread of this disease but to help the millions of children, adults and families afflicted by it.
Rep. Burton (R-IN) has chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 1997-2002.